My love of all foods Southwestern is deep and abiding. From tacos to burritos (breakfast and otherwise), quesadillas, nachos (grande or humble), tortilla soup and everything in between, I can’t resist. Well, maybe I can resist, but I’ve honestly never tried because I don’t want to give up any opportunity for any of those heavenly goodies.
These Southwestern Egg Rolls are currently the top of the heap of the goodness that is southwestern food for me right now. And most conveniently, they’re as easy and delicious when cooked from frozen as they are when you first roll them up. That makes them the perfect subject for today’s Make Ahead Monday feature.
I can’t think of anything I like much better than bright, festive onion, corn, red bell and jalapeno peppers, spinach, parsley or cilantro, melted pepper jack cheese, mild and moist chicken, substantial and creamy black beans and smoky spices wrapped up in a crunchy, crispy, dark brown egg roll wrapper. Hubba hubba. Or should I say ‘arriba!”? No really, should I? I have no idea if that’s even appropriate here.
All I know is this. These egg rolls make me happy. Very, very happy. They make my husband happy. Extremely happy. And they make my two eldest sons so insanely happy they’re almost weepy. The middlest son? Well, he loves the chicken, corn, black beans, spinach and cheese, but he’s on the fence over the bell peppers and onions. The gruesome-twosome anti-veg contingent? They’re not going anywhere near this many vegetables all mingled together even if it is in a deep-fried, hand-held package. Oh well. More. For. Me.
One day they will be filled with bitter regret for all the delicious vegetables they passed up at the table. In the meantime, I will continue to eat what is left on their plates, much to my waistline’s chagrin, to better absorb the unavoidable body check that will be used to knock me out of the way when they finally realize how delicious these things are.
Let’s get down to some nitty-gritty customization options in this dish, shall we?
- Use whichever leftover chicken you have whether it’s dark or white meat. I had a combination of leftover thighs and chicken breasts, so I picked the meat off and coarsely chopped it. Rotisserie chickens, leftover roast chicken, or almost whatever you have on hand will do the job. Just try not to toss something that is too strongly flavoured or overly saucy (for instance, chicken tikka masala or some such) into the mix.
- If you’re sensitive to spicy foods, you can omit the jalapeno pepper and swap in Monterey Jack for the pepper jack.
- You’ll note the recipe calls for ‘cilantro ~or~ parsley’. In short, use cilantro if you like it, use parsley if you don’t!
- You can deep-fry or bake these. It’s entirely up to you. Regarding this…
If you want that shatteringly crispy exterior, you are going to want to take the plunge and deep-fry these. There’s just no way to get the same effect from baking them. I’m not going to say don’t bake them, because they really are tasty when prepared that way, too, it’s just they’re different.
I shoved two of these under my husband’s nose; one baked, one fried. He looked at both and went for the fried one first. He gobbled that down then tried the baked one and it was gone in a trice, too. When I quizzed him afterward about which he had preferred, he said, “I don’t know! They were both good, just different!” So there you have it. Both good, just different. If it helps you to decide, he ate the fried one with his hands and the baked one with a fork.
- 6 cups cooked, cubed chicken (or shredded chicken)
- 2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
- 2 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 small onion, peeled and diced
- 1 red bell pepper stemmed, seeded and diced
- 1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and minced (omit if you prefer milder, less spicy food)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 12 ounces, about 2-3 cups, depending on how coarsely you grate it, pepper jack cheese (use regular Monterey Jack if you prefer less spicy food.)
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 40-50 egg roll wrappers
- water in a bowl to moisten and seal the egg roll wrappers
- canola, peanut or vegetable oil (for deep frying)
- non-stick cooking spray or oil (for baking)
- Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat. Add the green onions, onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, and garlic cloves along with a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Cook over medium high heat for about 2 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are crisp tender. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a large mixing bowl. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients except for the egg roll wrappers and water.
- Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper.
- Lay one egg roll wrapper out like a diamond with one tip pointing at your stomach. Scoop between ¼ and ⅓ cup of the filling neatly near the center of the egg roll wrapper, just a little bit closer to you than the center.
- Pick up the corner closest to you and lift it, draping it over the filling. Use the wrapper to help compress the filling and distribute it so you have a tube of filling.
- Fold the left corner over toward the center.
- Do the same with the right corner.
- Dip your fingers into the bowl of water, moisten along the edges of the top corner, then roll the bottom of the egg roll up toward the top, tightening the roll as you go.
- When you roll it up and over the top corner, press lightly against the work surface to help seal it.
- Place your sealed egg roll onto the lined pan. Repeat with the remaining filling and egg roll wrappers, trying to leave a little space between the egg rolls on the pan to prevent them from sticking together.
- Cover the pans with plastic wrap and place in the freezer until the egg rolls are frozen through, about 4 hours. Transfer the frozen egg rolls into a re-sealable zipper-type freezer bag. Keep frozen for up to 6 months, using them as needed.
- Heat about 2-inches of canola, peanut or vegetable oil in a high-sided heavy-bottomed pan until the oil is shimmery. If you have a deep-frying thermometer, you want the oil to be at 350°F. Carefully lower the desired number of egg rolls into the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. If necessary, fry them in batches to avoid overcrowding. Fry the egg rolls, flipping once if necessary, for about 4 minutes, or until the egg roll wrapper is deep golden brown and the filling is hot all the way through. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate or pan and let cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
- Heat about 2-inches of canola, peanut or vegetable oil in a high-sided heavy-bottomed pan until the oil is shimmery. Preheat oven to 350°F. If you have a deep-frying thermometer, you want the oil to be at 350°F. Carefully lower the desired number of frozen egg rolls into the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. If necessary, fry them in batches to avoid overcrowding. Fry the egg rolls, flipping once if necessary, for about 6 minutes, or until the egg roll wrapper is deep golden brown and the filling is hot all the way through. Transfer to a paper-towel lined pan. Cut one open to test the heat in the center. If they are not hot, you can remove the paper towels from the pan and put the pan in the oven to finish heating through. Alternatively, you can heat the fried egg rolls for 30 seconds to 1 minute after frying if the centers are not hot. When the filling is hot in the center, let cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray the desired number of egg rolls all over nonstick cooking spray or brush with oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, flipping occasionally, or until the egg roll wrappers are golden brown all the way around and the filling is hot all the way through. Remove the pan from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray the desired number of egg rolls all over with nonstick cooking spray or brush with oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping occasionally, or until the egg roll wrappers are golden brown all the way around and the filling is hot all the way through. Remove the pan from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.